In an effort to better understand and meet changing consumer needs, General Mills today announced that it will soon begin testing a Web site that will allow visitors to create their own customized cereal based on their individual health needs and taste preferences. Because of its limited initial capacity, the site will not immediately be open to the general public, but rather will be tested with select sets of consumers.

Through "mycereal.com," the company hopes to gain valuable consumer insight while responding to consumers who ask the company to create a special cereal based on their own specific health and taste needs. Because only a few people are interested in any one particular idea, the company has been precluded from developing mass-marketed cereals to meet those limited needs. And because the cereal market remains highly competitive, smaller, more unique ideas may never warrant valuable shelf space.

Customization is an emerging trend that shifts focus from the product to the consumer. The service is designed to make customized cereals for individual consumers with over 1,000,000 possible combinations versus the 250-plus varieties currently available in grocery stores. The products will be available in single-serve containers, with a personalized nutrition profile developed by licensed nutritionists for each individual.

"We look forward to gaining a better understanding of these consumers and servicing their specific needs," says Marc Belton, President of General Mills' Big G cereal division. "We also hope this will encourage consumers to keep and in some cases renew their interest in cereal."

During the initial test phase, capacity restrictions will limit the number of consumers who will have access to the site, and a time-sensitive code will be required. Pending the results of the initial testing, General Mills will evaluate possible capacity expansion. Consumers interested in trying the site but who don't have the proper access code will be able to leave their E-mail address for notification should the site's capacity be expanded to full operation.

Product will be delivered direct to the consumer's door, and will be shipped within 2-4 business days of the order being placed. Each serving of the premium-priced cereal will cost approximately $1, depending on serving size, or about the same as other customized breakfast options like a bagel and cream cheese or serving of customized coffee.

Because not all of its products are available in every grocery store, General Mills also currently sells some other specialty and hard-to-find items on its Web site at www.generalmills.com.

General Mills is a leading manufacturer and marketer of consumer food products, with annual sales exceeding $6 billion. In addition to its Big G cereal business, other major U.S. businesses include snacks; Betty Crocker dessert, side dish and dinner mixes; Gold Medal Flour; and Yoplait and Colombo yogurt. The company's expanding international operations include wholly owned businesses in Canada, Mexico and China, a snacks joint venture with PepsiCo in Europe, and a worldwide cereal join venture with Nestle. General Mills also recently announced plans to acquire Diageo's worldwide Pillsbury operations in a transaction valued at $10.5 billion.